Data for improving Education
To prepare every student to graduate with the skills and knowledge necessary for success in postsecondary education and the modern workplace, the nation’s schools must perform at higher levels than ever before. To meet this goal, educators, community members, and policymakers need useful information and hard facts that can help improve policy, practice, and student achievement. There are two prongs to meeting this demand: collecting good information and building capacity to use that information.
Longitudinal data – data that shows how students and teachers perform over time – provides a depth of information that is crucial for collecting meaningful results and improving educational processes and outcomes. Establishing robust longitudinal data systems to gather this type of data is integral to the success of many vital policy solutions currently on the table, including, but not limited to, calculating accurate graduation rates, implanting growth models, measuring teacher effectiveness, and leveraging data-driven decision making. Every state needs a high-quality longitudinal data system that tracks individual student data from the time a student enters the educational system until he or she leaves it. Many states are undertaking efforts to build these systems with the ten essential elements identified by the Data Quality Campaign (DQC), a national collaborative effort to support and encourage state policymakers to improve the collection, availability, and use of high-quality education data. Unfortunately, few currently have all ten elements in place or have built educator capacity to use data to improve teaching and learning.
Building data systems is challenging, but as critical is the task of building educator capacity to use data. There is increasing concern about the lack of capacity at the state, district, and school levels to manage data systems and integrate education data into the decision-making process. This includes statewide longitudinal data, but also includes student and program information observed and collected in the classroom and at the school level. To maximize the benefit of longitudinal student data in the classroom, it is critical to create a culture of data use and equip school leaders with the tools to understand and analyze data. Educators must be supported in using longitudinal student data to tailor instruction and minimize guesswork regarding students’ strengths and weaknesses. Significant investment and support is needed to help policymakers at every level overcome the challenges of building and using such systems.
The federal government must help states build the infrastructure needed for data to be collected, reported to the public, and used by educators to improve education. This should include a significant expansion and improvement of existing grants to states to build such systems in accordance with the recommendations of the Data Quality Campaign, as well as a new funding stream for grants to districts and states to build the capacity to use data to improve teaching and learning through professional development, effective data collection and other key functions.